Pentacon Six System
The History of
the Pentacon Six
Pentacon Six TL
One of the first of the cameras with the name “Pentacon
An original Pentacon Six front plate has clearly been
used, with the
“TL” subsequently added.
The Biometar lens on this example was part of a batch
that was finished
on 1st April 1968
The only change to the camera was the
name, which reflected
the availability from 1968 on of a TTL metering prism.
As can be seen above, the first examples
of the Pentacon
Six TL use a standard Pentacon Six face plate, to which
the letters “TL”
have been added below the name. Eventually
(presumably once the stock
of those face plates had been exhausted!), a new face
plate design was
used with the whole name in one line of text.
|Since the late 1940s, the key
export market for East
German companies had been the United States of
America, where the first
Contax S cameras had been sold for up to US$800,
an extraordinarily high
price, especially considering that the first
cameras arrived minus the
delayed-action mechanism and lever and that the
first batches needed a
lot of care and attention (i.e., a significant
proportion proved mechanically
unreliable). In the 1950s, KW’s Praktinas
were also strongly promoted
in the USA.
Americans were extremely keen
to get quality German cameras,
but had misgivings about buying from the
Eastern Sector of Germany.
By the early 1950s, US government and import
regulations required that
such equipment be re-labelled “Germany (USSR
occupied)” or “Germany (Russian
By the 1960s, the former Soviet
zone of Germany was calling
itself the “German Democratic Republic” or
“GDR” (in German: “Deutsche
Democratische Republik” or “DDR”), and cameras
and lenses were labelled
accordingly. But the Berlin wall had
been erected by the communist
authorities on 13 August 1963, and
relationships between communist countries
and the USA were extremely poor. The
“GDR” had to find ways of getting
round American resistance to buying communist
goods. In addition,
there was a long-running series of court
battles in various countries over
the rights to use the name “Carl Zeiss” and
lens names such as “Biometar”
and “Sonnar”. Eventually, the East
Germans lost the right to use
these names in various countries, including
The manufacturers of the
Pentacon Six and of Carl Zeiss
lenses sought to get round these problems in
the easiest way possible.
The image on the right shows the same camera
as the one illustrated at
the top of this page.
Pentacon Six TL prepared for export to the USA
Hiding the words “Carl Zeiss” and “Biometar”
and the country name “DDR”:
a new lens name ring is screwed into the lens
– on top of the original
ring! The original lens ring says “1Q
Biometar 2.8/80 [Serial number]
Carl Zeiss Jena” and probably included the
designation “DDR”, which was
added to most Carl Zeiss Jena lenses.
The new lens ring says “1Q
Bm 1:2.8 f - 80 [Serial number] aus Jena”
Both the lens and the camera are labelled
“MADE IN GERMANY (EAST)”.
The two flash sockets can be seen under the
camera throat, “X” on the left
and “FP” on the right.
read more about the settlement conditions of the
legal dispute between the two Carl Zeiss
|Labelling of lenses and bodies
for export to the USA
and some other countries in the late 1960s.
However, even all this
subterfuge was not enough to overcome
resistance to a camera that was known to come
from communist East Germany,
and so a new version of the camera was born,
or at least, a new name for
it. (See next page.)
Enlargements from the lens and the camera
baseplate in the above photograph
They also added a feature that had been
possible for all
models since the design of the the Praktisix, but never
this point: separate “X” and “FP” flash sockets (for
and Focal Plane flash bulbs, respectively), as FP
flashguns continued to
be very popular in the USA.
The slightly later Pentacon Six
TL shown here has the
new-style face plate. It, too, has been
prepared for export to a
country where the name “Carl Zeiss” cannot be
used, as can be seen from
the name ring on the lens.
This picture supplied to me in
1981 by the factory shows
a 1960s camera with larger lettering on the
camera face plate.
The uncommon lens style with
“bumps” on the focussing
ring can also be seen on this image,
and an export ring has been
added to the lens,
perhaps so that the picture
could be used in certain
In the subsequent decades, there was no
development of the camera, and only cosmetic changes can
Thus from about 1972 the lens breech-lock ring on the
body was black.
This picture, which was also supplied to
me by the factory
in 1981, was labelled “Heutige Ausführung”, which,
means “Current Version”.
The lens on this camera was part of a
batch of Biometars
that were completed on 11th October 1975.
Naturally, the metering prism is shown
fitted to this
|From about 1987 the concentric
circles on the shutter
release button that had been seen on this button
since the Praktisix was
first introduced in 1956/57 disappeared.
In German, this smooth version
is referred to as “Glattknopf”. The
Exakta 66 (1980s-on version)
also had a smooth shutter release button, no
doubt produced by Pentacon,
and I wonder if when sales of the Exakta 66 did
not reach the hoped-for
levels the Pentacon factory found itself with a
surplus of such buttons
and decided to use them on its own
cameras. (Of course, the button
was anodized black during the subsequent
manufacturing process for the
Since the introduction of the Praktisix,
base plate round the tripod screw socket had had a disk
of black leatherette.
At the same time that the shutter release button ceased
to have its concentric
rings, this piece of leatherette was no longer
applied. Compare with
the base of the camera illustrated higher up on this
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21 The Hanimex
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© TRA August 2010 Latest revision with improved links: May 2020